Shel is tired of dating men who don’t appreciate her rock and roll wardrobe or her tomboy tendencies. She’s swearing off dating, and she is not going to give another moment’s thought to the hot single dad next door. She is not going to waste a single moment dwelling on his muscles or his eyes or the way he plays with his adorable six-year-old daughter.
Max has made mistakes, he’s been a terrible father, and he has no problem spending the rest of his life atoning by being the best, most devoted parent he can possibly be. A devoted father does not have wicked thoughts about his sexy neighbor, and he most certainly does not consider an actual relationship.
Except, he can’t stop thinking about Shel, and he’s not sure what to do about it.
"Hi, Max." She should smile and say something charming and witty, put them both at ease, but she just stared at him, knocked brain dead by the sight of his bare feet, worn jeans, and fitted t-shirt, dark scruff highlighting his — Her eyes dropped back to his t-shirt, sure her brain had misfired. No, she'd seen exactly what she'd thought she'd seen.
"Wouldn't have taken you for a fan of Ella Marie." The female pop star’s psychedelic logo stretched across his pecs.
He looked down at his shirt and winced. By the time he'd looked back up though, a cocky smile was firmly in place. "My sister got it for me as a joke. It's a good shirt."
"Right," she said, her discomfort forgotten now that the subject had changed to music. "You're definitely too manly to be a fan of her album, The Perfect Ones."
"The Rejected Ones," he said, smugly, before he realized his mistake and his eyes went wide.
She swung her arm up to point at him. "Ha! Only a fan would know that." Too late she remembered she still held a bag of poop. She dropped her arm back down by her side.
He recovered almost immediately and shrugged. "So, I like Ella Marie. I'm surprised you'd be so narrow-minded as to stereotype her fans."
Shel's cheeks heated. "It's not stereotyping. It's a game I play, trying to guess what music people love based on their personalities. Not that I know your personality, but you drive a big truck and you've got all the trappings of toxic masculinity. I hadn't pegged you as a fan of pop music, or really anything that's not filled with rage on some level." And there she went, sounding weird again.
"Toxic masculinity?" he said, brows high. "Sounds like stereotyping to me."
She was an asshole. "You're right. Honestly, you seemed like a jerk, because you never said hello or introduced yourself, so it was easier for me, in my petty rage, to fall back on stereotypes. I really don't make a habit of putting people in boxes."
Max's smile should have faded to a frown and he should have looked at her like the weirdo she was, but his smile got bigger. "You're incredibly honest."
"I am. It's the burden I bear."
He laughed. "Honesty's good. Sorry I've been a jerk."
She waved a hand. Again the one with the poop bag. "You're a busy person. I'm sure you had your reasons."
"Nah," he said. "Trust your instincts. They're good ones." He said it with that same, easy smile, but the light in his eyes had dimmed a bit.
Katharine Sadler lives with her husband in North Carolina. She’s been writing since she was ten and has wanted to be a writer even longer. When she’s not writing or otherwise gainfully occupied, she reads like it’s an addiction, exercises, skis whenever she gets the chance, and adds more books to her Amazon wish list.
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